In the Herald's 2018 Mood of the Boardroom survey, 134 CEOs responded to the question: "What should be at the top of the PM's Business Advisory Council's agenda?"

At first blush there is a disconnect between what some respondents believe should be on the council's agenda and Chris Luxon's own focus.

But a good deal of responses included a focus on improving productivity and growth, formulating a long term strategy for New Zealand and ensuring businesses have access to talent and the skills they need.

Mike Bennetts, CEO of Z Energy, argues that given the council has been established to address low business confidence, the primary focus should be: "Properly understanding what the drivers of business confidence are so that any responses can be targeted to closing the right gap."

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A legal firm boss felt that if the council can get its priorities right, there is potential for economy-wide benefit.

"Increasing productivity (and that means working smarter, not harder). With greater productivity will come greater GDP per capita, which will allow us to afford all manner of benefits."

CEOs have urged business leaders who will serve on the council not to neglect SMEs (small-to-medium enterprises) and to use the opportunity to focus on NZ businesses across the spectrum, not just those that have the largest voice.

KPMG chairman Ross Buckley urged the council and Government to "be relevant to all of NZ business, not just the top end of town — it appears they are ignoring and missing the SME sector".

Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns feels the council is an opportunity to provide clarity of policy — a key factor in low business confidence.

He said the focus should be on "reducing policy uncertainty. Businesses won't invest in this environment."

Others, including Spark managing director Simon Moutter, suggest that while the economy should definitely be a focus, this should not be at the cost of New Zealanders and equality. Moutter feels the focus should be "how to maintain economic growth while achieving greater social equity".

The announcement of the Business Advisory Council also sparked some scepticism.

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"We don't subscribe to the theory that the marketplace has lost confidence. It seems to be the view of a few only," argued Don Braid, CEO of Mainfreight. "It's difficult to understand what another business forum will achieve."

Echoing Braid's view is Rob Campbell, chairman of SkyCity Entertainment, who is "not sure it is needed," and a private equity boss who said it will be a committee.

"These groups exist already. Talk to them and talk to industry groups to ask specifics."

BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope hoped the council's formation would give security and confidence to NZ companies that the Government was working for, not against, them,
"In order for business to do well, it also has to have confidence in the direction of the country and confidence that it is being listened to.

"The announcement is a positive step in signalling the Government's commitment to do so."